The Next NFC Wave: Elevating and Connecting Products

Erin Zwirn Picture

by Erin Zwirn | Last Updated: Sep 22, 2022

Wow. A lot has changed since near-field communication (NFC) first emerged. But, it is strange to still think of a technology invented in the early 2000s as a corollary to RFID that has evolved into a mature technology of its own. 

Synonymous with cardless payments, it can do so much more than that. 

As a solution for proximity marketing, brands have used it to promote products and enhance the in-store experience. The next NFC wave is only beginning to shape, and more marketers are thinking about how it can serve as the digital glue to support everyday consumer engagements and experiences in connected product marketing.

This year at New York Fashion Week (NYFW), attendees saw firsthand the power of NFTs.

Fashion designers collaborated with a fintech company, AfterPay, to create NFT keys that doubled access passes to exclusive in-real-life (IRL) experiences and activations at this difficult-to-access event. One stand-out activation was the launch of Tommy Hilfiger's Rove, an app-based web 3.0 studio and media launchpad.  Attendees tapped NFC stickers plastered all over the venue's walls to activate the digital experience: NFTs of a Warhol-esque print of Tommy Hilfiger himself using a polaroid camera.

This month two U.K-based technology innovators, SharpEnd and Threedium, announced they are bringing together their technologies to empower brands to offer “Metaverse ready” connected experiences. The first collaboration connected PUMA sneakers, each with a digital twin, to create a virtual storytelling experience. The sneakers got “unlocked” via an integrated NFC. These and many other digital elements by Puma took center stage in the global shoe company’s metaverse experience, which also debuted at NYFW.

These are a few examples and techniques across many industries as brands incorporate “product as media” or connected packaging with NFCs. Some digital marketers might view the metaverse as still an out-of-focus tactic to engage with customers. For others, it's already in their 2023 brand budgets.

With 3.4 billion active smartphones today, smartphone penetration is at an all-time high. There are 2 billion NFC-enabled devices; that’s most of the world’s smartphones according to the State of NFC in 2021. Plus, at this stage in the mobile device game, all new models have the infrastructure to interact with an NFC tag to enable a dynamic, personalized experience. 

Nowadays, digital channels optimized for mobile devices are critical for brands across all industries. The one thing that consumers want is a consistent brand experience at each digital touchpoint. 

NFC supports the strategy for marketers to help make this a reality. Connected products with acquired data from NFCs can support interactions, providing deep insights into a customer’s offline behavior. This is valuable intel for marketers to decide with data what’s working and what needs improving. 

NFC technology connected to a product can help fine-tune digital marketing. The magic happens when marketers open a direct channel to deliver customer experiences. The ease of interaction helps too. The tap of the tag works wonders. It allows brands to edge slightly over competitors in the aisle to nurture their loyal customer base and become more relevant. Then, throughout the customer’s journey with the product, marketers can prompt customers to learn more about products they purchase through any number of experiences: apps, micro-sites, and quizzes, all with simply that tag and wave of a mobile device next to the product packaging. 

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